Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: How to Be Black
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on January 31, 2012
This is the book that every lover of all things black (hip hop, basketball, being a good dancer, being a wide receiver in the NFL etc) has been waiting for. Those of you that have stood on the edges, desperately wanting to be more black but have been too scared to take the first step... this book is for you.

The book answers important questions like:

* Once you've gone black, can you in fact, go back?
* What's up with those funny handshakes?
* Can white men really not jump?
* How can Obama be black AND Hawaiian? Confusing.
* What sort of rims should I get on my Escalade?
* What exactly is Grape Drank?

Not really, but it is super funny, very touching, and an all round bloody smart read. Baratunde is the guy from the Onion who gave Donald Trump one of the best smack downs in internet history (Google it). His first book doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Bottom line: read it if you like funny things, are interested in race in America, or just want to raise eyebrows on the subway a bit (the last one doesn't work for the kindle version, unfortunately).
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on January 31, 2012
I've followed Baratunde on Twitter for a couple years now, and I've been anticipating this book for a while. He's hilarious, and the book is proof of it. With chapters on things like How to Be the Next Black President, how could it not?

While the book is funny - and mostly satirical - it also comments on what it actually means to be black in the U.S. today. The personal stories that Baratunde shares are heartening, informative, allegorical and more.

The interviews with people like Elon James White and Cheryl Contee are fantastic, too. Basically just a fantastic book.
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on January 31, 2012
Race is a tough topic to discuss in the U.S. Baratunde Thurston makes it a whole lot easier with the humor in this book. Both a memoir of growing up black in the late 20th century and a sharp social commentary--not to mention a handy instruction manual--"How to Be Black" is a funny and thought-provoking read.
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on June 21, 2012
I finished reading HTBB a few weeks ago and enjoyed it thoroughly, except for all the profanity. I realize nowadays people spread profanity around like confetti. There is no shame to their game when it comes to cursing. However, being a non-curser, it still jars me somewhat when all of a sudden it is in my face. That said, I waited until now to write a review to see what still resonated with me after a few weeks. First of all, it is an easy read. I read HTBB in eight to nine hours on a road trip. Second, Baratunde is so smart, honest and funny. How do I know? Just read the chapter about 'How to Be The Black Employee.' I laughed so hard about the watermelon dilemma. This book shows Baratunde's great intellect. Baratunde reminds me of comedian Jerry Seinfield, in how he can take a seeming innocuous subject like swimming and give it such a hilarious look from the Black perspective. Third, I think including the Black Panel was a clever idea. What I am taking away with me from HTBB is that we all need to take the time to understand each other better. We are all different and quirky. When we realize that, we can have so much fun together laughing at ourselves.
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on February 8, 2012
I am a white guy who was born and raised in rural southern Oklahoma where racism was still quite prevalent. I never considered myself racist... I had black friends, dated a few black girls and now my family and I have a foster baby who is black. This book is an amazing insight into the world that I never knew but somehow felt. I greatly enjoy listening to Baratunde describe his life and experiences mixed with a little humor and a healthy dose of satire. This is a must read for any one who has ever wondered about blackness but was too afraid to ask.
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on September 11, 2012
I heard this book when the author was a guest on an episode of the game show podcast Ask Me Another. It sounded interesting and my library had a copy so I picked it up. I read it after finishing I'd Rather We Got Casinos (and Other Black Thoughts by Larry Wilmore and found this book to have much more substance whereas the former was mostly jokes.

In How to Be Black Thurston perfectly injects humor into the topics and situations he talks about without losing any of the gravitas. He teaches the reader without them ever realizing they're learning because they're too busy enjoying his writing. But when you pause to really think about some of the things he says, you realize there's so much more he leaves unsaid, leaving it up to the reader to put the pieces together for themselves.

Under the guise of telling someone How to Be Black, he is educating the reader about the black experience and some of the things black people go through that I'm sure many white people are simply oblivious to. What I really took away from this book is the importance of understanding another person's experience and also examine your own contributions to their experience.

I think anyone can benefit from reading this book and even though the examples are specific to black culture, you could also plug in any other ethnicity or culture and have the same point be made. The more we learn about one another the more comfortable we become being around different people which leads to getting to know a person and the realization that we're not so different after all. And when we can come together and realize we're all in it together, then we can start working to make the world better for everyone.
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on January 31, 2012
This wonderful book is actually not about being black. It's about being you, whoever you might be. In sharing his life journey, wit, and ruminations, Baratunde helps us see that each of us is on our journey to "blackness."
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on February 16, 2012
First, 5 stars are not enough to rate Baratunde Thurston's "How To Be Black". It was an intelligent read with a lot of depth wrapped in wit, sarcasm and humor. Baratunde narrates his life vividly and there is a laugh on every page.

Second, this book is one of the best books on the "r" word I have ever read! The topic, though applicable on many levels (still!) today, cannot be discussed honestly and openly on any side because of our collective inability to look within, right wrongs and truly take ownership of the word. People either throw the term around willy nilly at anyone who breathes too hard in their direction (not taking the time to ponder that perhaps the person has asthma) or others refuse to accept what they are and look at their own words, behaviors and/or thoughts (somehow suggesting that "r" doesn't exist anymore and that they are not the problem or at least part of the problem). The way Baratunde (I'm on a first name basis in this review with him now) explains prejudice towards African Americans as well as within the African American community towards each other is done with so much parody and playfulness, how could anyone take offence?

I loved this book, highlighted some things and laughed my way through it. It is an awesome read and I would recommend it to anyone trying to understand the "r" word and what it means to be "Black" in our time.

Thanks, Baratunde! You do us ALL proud!

p.s. If you get the chance to see Baratunde on YouTube or as an MSNBC commentator you won't be disappointed. A sharp, cute, super funny guy!
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on August 10, 2012
OK, so I didn't know what to expect from the book, but I have been following this guy on Twitter for a while. I didn't know also that he was the "Jack Turner" behind the "Jack & Jill Politics" blog that I followed. (I don't pay attention to all that much, I guess.)

But this guy's name kept popping up on my Twitter feeds--another guy I follow kept posting about him and recommending him, and then his book kept appearing as well, so I picked it up.

First off, the book cover is fairly aggressive. It makes it difficult to read in public, because some random white guy sitting on a bus reading a book with six-inch-high bold letters announcing the title "HOW TO BE BLACK" can be a little weird. There are more than a few black Americans who ride the bus with me, and there was no scenario I could work out where I could explain what it was I was doing reading that book. So in an act of brilliant reasoning but perhaps moral cowardice I simply removed the dust jacket and read the book so as not to expose the spine too often.

The book itself is charming and funny and raucous and sincere. It is humorous to the point where you laugh out loud and then people on the bus want to know what you're reading (which then means you have to tell them "Well, there's this book I'm reading for research on what this all _means_, but you know, I'm not actually reading it seriously, but I'm also not reading it because I am making fun of anybody, and besides, I'm really a nice guy..." Well, you can see why it can be a difficult book to read in public.)

It it also serious and sometimes poignant. Mr. Thurston had an amazing mother and life experiences. There are so many moments when you are happy for the ways things work out for him--rather ordinary things, really, like planning for a college or figuring out a career--that take unavoidable importance due to the nature of being someone a lot of people just don't expect to have around. It doesn't seem to be something he avoids or something he uses as a badge: it just is, and he deals with it as it is.

And, there are the wonderful stories and recommendations. For those of you expecting a true guidebook with bullet points, lists, and exit criteria on How to Be Black, he provides them. For the Black Friends Auxiliary, he also gives helpful points. It is funny, it makes you laugh, and then you have to check yourself: Do I act like this around my One Black Friend?

What a mess we've made in America of race and people and color and skin. It has caused a lot of grief and pain and heartache. But we can still look at directly, think about it, talk about it--and sometimes laugh at the absurdity, even the absurdity of owning a book you're not comfortable reading in public on a bus.
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on February 1, 2012
I've always concerned myself with being aware of race. I was taught as a child that everyone is the same, but we really aren't. I'm 6'5" and it is very unlikely that more than 1% of you are even within an inch of that height. I'm rather pale, being of an Irish, German, Scottish and northern Italian heritage. That makes me different from other folks. Oh sure, we all are human and have a soul and what not, but we are different creatures from different places and different backgrounds.
Apparently some folks concern themselves with either the color of their skin or the behaviors they exhibit. Sometimes they are told they aren't acting according to a stereotype or opinion held by the observer. This causes a divide for some and a source of angst for others.

So, when Baratunde Thurston asks himself and his panel of Blackness Experts "How Black Are You?", it is a fascinating topic. What does being Black mean to the observer? Do you define "Black" as "Poor Black Child" (thank you Steve Martin)? How about "Militant Urban Activist"? Is your definition based on watching The Wire or The Cosby Show? Listening to Oprah talk or Ice-T? Chuck D or KRS-1?

Reading this book should give you an insight into a singular black experience - as atypical as any other. It should let you better understand that "being Black" isn't about being a thug. Or talking a certain way. It is about being You - just able to dance better than most of your friends.

Tell me - who is more "Black" - Will Smith or Eminem?
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